I am often asked what my views are on home schooling versus Christian school versus public school. I have pretty strong views on all three but that is for a different blog post.
Today I want to give parents suggestions for success when they are sending their child to public school. I made the choice to send Sydney to public school, but many Christian parents send their children there because they have no other choice. Let's face it, private schools are expensive! Home schooling requires one parent to be home and is not financially feasible for every family. When that is the case, the kids must go to "free" public school. Some parents feel anxious about that decision.
Sydney is in second grade now, so I have had a few years to learn my way as a Christian parent of a public school student. Here are my tips to make this experience the best:
1. Get Involved!- There are many ways to get involved in your child's class and their school.
Volunteer as a class parent. This will afford you the opportunity to go on your child's class trips and to be in attendance during class parties and events. By being present in the classroom, you get to see the teacher in action and you get to know the children that your child spends their day.
Some schools have a limited number of class parents so being the class mom may not be an option for you. You can still volunteer. Offer to come in to class and do a craft or lesson with the kids. Volunteer to be a reader. When I was teaching, I loved having an extra set of hands. Sydney's teacher have always been willing to let me come in and read. This year her teacher allowed me to come in and do a craft with the kids. It was awesome to see the interaction between Sydney and her teacher and I got to know the kids in the class better. In Kindergarten, a friend and I went in and helped the class plant flowers.
The schools in New Jersey give parents the opportunity to observe their child's class during Education week. Take this opportunity. It doesn't matter what part of the day you see. It is important that both your child and your child's teacher know that you care and are involved. The teacher will be more willing to come to you and share her concerns or praises if she has seen you in person and knows that you want to be involved.
2. Ask Questions- I learned early on that asking Sydney, "How was your day?" was not going to tell me much. She would always answer with, "Good."
Ask probing questions such as:
"What was your favorite part of the day today?"
"What was the funniest thing that happened today?"
"What was the most boring part of the day?"
"Who did you play with at recess and what did you play?"
"What was the most interesting part of your day?"
If you ask your child every day when they get off the bus, they will come to expect this inquisition. Sydney says she thinks about it during the day. She says when something happens she thinks to herself, "I need to remember this to tell mom."
If your child is used to talking with you, they will be more likely to share with you if something is wrong at school.
3. Remember that you are Responsible for your Child's Spiritual Education- Enroll your child in classes at your church. When a child attends Christian or Catholic school, they are getting religious instruction on a daily basis. (I would know. I spent 12 years in a Christian school growing up.) When your child goes to a public school, it is solely your responsibility. You need to be consistent and attend your church regularly. Enroll your child in a children's program at your church. My church, Sayre Woods Bible Church, offers an AWANA program for children on Thursday nights. There, Sydney and Lucas are able to learn about the BIble and our faith since they won't receive that instruction in school. During the week, we practice our lessons and verses. Just because your child attends public school, it doesn't mean that they can't have Biblical instruction.
4. Stay Positive- Don't trash talk your child's school. Even if sending them to that school was your last resort. Speak positively about your child's school and teacher. This is your child's "home" for 6+ hours of the day. If you have concerns about your child's teacher, express them to the principal at the school. Don't share them with your child.
5. Don't Believe the Hype- So many people grow up with preconceived notions about what public school is. When I was younger, I attended Christian school all the way through my senior year. I would hear parents say that public school was evil, that public school teaches your child to be gay, that public school doesn't have any character education and so on. Don't believe what you hear through the "grapevine". Do the research for yourself. Go to your local library and check out the curriculum for your child's school. If you see anything that you are unsure of, make an appointment with the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for your district and ask questions. If you are still concerned, you are allowed to "opt out" of any instruction that goes against your religious beliefs. Find out for yourself! Do not believe the gossip!
6. Pray for your Child- This is something that all parents should be doing regardless of where they attend school. Make it part of your daily routine to pray for your child's safety and interactions at school. Pray that they will be a positive role model and a "light" to others.